Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

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Investigative Reporting Workshop for College Students

Clearly I graduated too early. I can’t apply for this class, but maybe you or someone you know can.

CampusCoverageProjectInvestigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), in partnership with Education Writers Association and the Student Press Law Center, is launching a program to share investigative reporting skills with college and university students that they can apply to covering campus issues.

Seventy-five students from around the country will be selected to receive full scholarships to participate in the Campus Coverage Project.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Use the Internet as an investigative reporting tool.
  • Read budget documents and find the stories that matter.
  • Prepare for tough interviews and come away with the information you need.
  • Analyze your school’s performance to see how it measures up.
  • Examine athletic programs—and their funding.
  • Use legal tools to pry open foundations, auxiliaries and other secretive campus institutions.
  • Examine issues on your campus in the context of national debates on higher education.

Qualified students are those with experience reporting for campus-related news outlets who have at least one year of coursework remaining.

Apply by Oct. 12, 2009 for a full scholarship to attend a three-day Campus Investigative Reporting Workshop and participate in a year-long program that offers ongoing training and opportunities to learn from top reporters from throughout the country. Space is limited.

For more details and an online application, go to www.ire.org/campus.

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Rebooting Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists

tntjThis month, TNTJ (a blog ring for young journalists around the world who debate a topic each month) is asking for help. Over the last few months, postings have dwindled, and it’s time to get people motivated again.

The problems that TNTJ faces are not unique. It is the problem we face every time we try to create a community. Look at all the Ning communities that have been created for journalists. How many are still active?

Last month’s topic was “Have you fallen out of love with blogging?” There were a couple of responses, most of which seemed to say “We like blogging, but Twitter is faster and easier.”

I totally sympathize, as my own blog has been neglected. But I don’t agree. Blogging is for long-form discussion, rather than the short bursts of lazy links we all get on Twitter. (Mind you, I’m not hating on Twitter, but it is hard to get ideas into 140 characters.)

Other topics have been:

  • What advice would you give to a student or recent graduate who has a summer/job internship?
  • Tips, knowledge and experience are essential — but how do you get them? Where do you look?
  • What are your summer (internship) plans? And, if you’re graduating, what are your job prospects?
  • What traditional skills are we ignoring, or letting slip? What’s the downside of new media?”

I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than 5 or 6 responses to a TNTJ question in a given month. Unfortunate, because I would love to get to know the other participants and hear what they are working on, learning and thinking. I haven’t responded every month myself, either because the topic was narrowed to students or I didn’t want to be repeating the same obvious answers.

I think that the topics have been lukewarm and mostly aimed at students. I don’t know how many students make up the TNTJ circle, but those narrow topics make it hard for graduates and out-of-work journalists like myself to contribute. Some of the topics have also been so narrow that the responses are kind of obvious and predictable.

TNTJ is also considering adding a podcast to the mix. Again, the success of this endeavor will rely entirely on the community. Will enough people be able to contribute? Will people have different opinions that will make these discussions interesting?

If the topic were interesting, I would listen. I would definitely participate in any discussion I thought I could contribute to.

What else can TNTJ do to stimulate discussion?

I think one of the major problems is the lack of mission. What is TNTJ trying to accomplish? Just gathering young journalists together isn’t enough of a mission statement. We need something to work toward.

What are we, as young journalists, trying to accomplish?

I believe that like most journalists at this time, (indeed, most people) we are trying to make places for ourselves in a changing world, while exerting what effort and influence we have to make that world better.

There are two major parts to this: seeing where we are, and seeing where we will go. That is what we should be discussing every month.

Some ideas for future topics:

* What new projects and experiments are you watching or working on?
* What technologies are emerging and how will they affect journalism?
* What are you learning?
* What are the elements of journalism that we should expand upon in order to do our jobs better?
* What business models might support journalism in the future?

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Community Tool, Teaching Tool

Globalstudentjournalists Anna Rodrigues, a journalism professor at Durham College in Oshawa, Canada, has spent the last year developing a project that will at once serve as a global community for journalism students and as a teaching tool in her classroom.

Global Student Journalists is a social media network where student journalists from around the world can connect. The network allows students from any journalism program in the world to become a member and upload their work – video, audio, images etc – to the site for other students to look at and give feedback.

This site will also be used in my classroom as a teaching tool in online community management. I had been struggling with a way to teach students how to manage comments and members in a newsroom context so this became a way to do that.

If you’re not registered, there isn’t much to see. Rodrigues says the site was built to provide students with a private community. Once logged in, students can show their work and comment on other work that has been posted. Comments and membership will be moderated by Roderigues’ students, in an effort to teach them about online community management.

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TNTJ May: You Don’t Have to Be a Journalist to be a Journalist

tntjThis is a response to May’s Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists May topic:

This is a blog ring for young journalists around the world. Each month, we will debate a set topic by posting here and on our own blogs.

This month, the journalism job market will be flooded with new, eager journalists. It’s a nervous time for all. Many graduates from last year haven’t yet settled into journalism, and yet now they have to contend with a couple more thousand rivals.

Tips, knowledge and experience are essential — but how do you get them? Where do you look?

New graduates: What are your worries? Your questions? Your confusions? Put them to the other journalists in this ring — we may just have the perfect answer.

Other young journalists: You were here once. What did you do? How did you land that first important job? What got the ball rolling?

My Story

A year ago I started the adventure they call life after college. I had the rest of my life (a.k.a. the next 6 months) planned out with confidence: a two-week photography class in Berlin, Germany was to be followed by an internship at The Miami Herald.

Things went swimmingly, until I realized that the end date of my internship was nearing and somehow I didn’t have anything else lined up. Job applications and interviews had gone nowhere, and I had done with being picky.

One thing led to another, and a fellow JWJ (Journalist Without a Job) and I decided that New York City would be the perfect place for two multi-talented news addicts to find work. You can read about that adventure in “Sink, Florida, Sink.”

Here I am, nine months in New York. I’ve had two non-news internships, both terminated early due to the economic crisis. I started freelancing a few months ago, taking on any job I thought I could do: web design and development, video production, news writing.

Somehow, I’ve managed to keep my head above water.

Dave Lee recently wrote, in “J-students must stick around and clear up the mess

Just spend your day being a journalist. Get shifts, even if it’s one day a week. Apply for anything that’s remotely near to a newsroom. Work on the reception if you have to.
You need to make sure you’re in the industry when it’s back on the way up.

This is the motivation behind almost everything I’ve done since I moved to New York.

After cold-calling and e-mailing every publisher in the city failed to produce a bill-paying income, I took two unrelated internships and spent all my free time wriggling into every gap I could find.

I found the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative through some searches on local news papers. I contacted the program leaders asking if I could help, in any way, shape or form. They asked me to help them with a website, which led to talking to students about online journalism, which led to freelancing for the Norwood News. Word is, I might also be asked to teach the newsroom some web skills.

PBS MediaShift blog host Mark Glaser asked me to write a series on innovative journalism projects. I can’t even count how many new contacts I made while researching and interviewing journalists all over the country. And while it hasn’t directly led to any new gigs yet, I follow every one of those people on Facebook and Twitter. They are a valuable addition to my network.

I’m barely keeping my toes immersed in the dwindling pool that is journalism. But I take every opportunity to mention to everyone I meet: I want to do journalism.

But you don’t really care about my story. You just want to know how to keep your own head up.

The Takeaway

Meet everyone you can. Go to every conference, search for every possible resource that could help you.

Read/watch these interviews, collected by David Cohn: Who I’ve Learned From – 107 Interviews.

Read these articles collected by Tracy Boyne: 85 Resources to Pass the Time During Your Next Furlough.

Do 18 Things For Journalism Students To Do With Their Summer.

Getting started is hard. How do you start pitching stories? How do you meet editors who can help you? How do you find out about opportunities?

Stay plugged in. Follow every journalist on Twitter and Facebook, pay attention to what they say. Follow the news, and just start e-mailing story ideas to editors. It’s hard, and it’s scary, but eventually it pays off.

Find a way to pay the bills, and then find a way to stay involved.

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Who is Twitter for?

twitterclouds Commenter Dkzody responded to my presentation for the Bronx Youth Journalism initiative with this tidbit about her high school students:

My students do not like twitter because they see it as a tool for old people. They text all the time and see no need to be limited to 140 characters. They also think it’s just people talking about what they are doing at the moment. I have to laugh because that is what they are doing when texting.

Twitter vs Txt

Twitter allows people to send short messages to other people via web app, phone. Text messages allow people to send short messages to other people via phone (and sometimes web app).

The major difference is that with Twitter one is usually broadcasting to many people, whereas text messages are often personal and directed toward one person.

Is that the aspect of Twitter that these students object to? Or is the usefulness curve for Twitter just too high?

Why Not Twitter?

The usefulness curve on Twitter is pretty darn steep. You have to sign up, find some people to follow, search for interests, follow more people, and just sort of leave it running in the background for a while before it begins to make sense.

No wonder Nielsen Online reports

Apparently more than 60 percent of Twitter users fail to return the following month and pre-Oprah more than 70 percent of Twitter users failed to return to the site.

I know a lot of people who still say “Twitter is stupid, it’s just Facebook status updates.” Well, if Facebook status updates were this good, I wouldn’t need Twitter, now would I?

Perception

I don’t know how many of Dkzody’s students have actually tried Twitter. But I do know that a lot of negative opinions about Twitter come from perception.

Is Twitter a micro-blogging service? Is Twitter a social network? Is Twitter just Facebook updates? Why am I telling Twitter what I’m doing?

I have trouble answering the questions I get from people who don’t understand the utility of Twitter, because Twitter is what you make it for yourself. For me, it’s all of the above, and more.

About this perception that Twitter is for old people…what do you make of that?

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Scaring highschoolers about the future of journalism

On Wednesday evening I spoke to a group of five students who are taking part in the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative.

I’ve mentioned BYJI here before, mostly begging for help with my public speaking anxiety.

To my surprise, the whole thing went pretty well. The kids were Web-savvy enough to have uploaded a few videos to YouTube, and knew of Twitter, though none are using it yet.

I talked about the “newspaper crisis” caused by lack of innovation, an old business model and the problems with advertising and paywalls. (The kids’ immediate reaction to paywalls: “That won’t work.” Out of the mouths…) I went over the basics of online journalism: blogs, social networks, multimedia. I also talked about citizen journalism a little bit, in terms of how everyone can have a voice in their communities, which is a big problem in the Bronx. They really liked the concepts of “Not Just a Number,” which I showed them, along with the Las Vegas Sun Web site.

One student asked me how he could learn to code, and I directed him to the W3Schools site. Another asked about the future of news on e-readers like the Kindle. And of course the final question was “Where are we going?”

Thanks to Mindy McAdams, Craig Lee, and Tracy Boyer for their advice and inspiration. I’ve uploaded a powerpoint presentation to Slideshare which I used as a guide for my presentation, although it was really more a conversation than a speech.

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Speaking at the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative

Next week I will be speaking to the students of the West Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative about online journalism and the future of news.

The West Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative is a weekly program offered to sophomores, juniors or seniors from Bronx high schools.

Students will learn the fundamentals of writing, reporting, and photojournalism through classroom instruction but, more importantly, through hands-on reporting in their own neighborhoods. We will take them on field trips – including the newsroom of a daily newspaper. They will learn about community activism and civic responsibility, how their neighborhoods work (or don’t), who has power, who doesn’t and why.

I’m nervous, because I’m really horrible at public speaking. But also because I have no idea what these kids know.

What’s the level of computer/Internet proficiency? Do they have access to computers at home? Do they read news online, have blogs, read blogs?

James Fergusson, the program coordinator and Editor of the Mount Hope Monitor, has told me that they have not discussed online journalism in class.

I got some great advice from Mindy McAdams, who told me not to assume that the kids are technologically ignorant. Even if they don’t have computers at home, the public libraries offer free access.

She also suggested that I show “Not Just a Number” and “The Mac” as examples of stories told by people about their own communities.

I can probably spend a few minutes at first figuring out what they know without looking like a total hack. The problem is how to adjust what I want to say to their level. After beating college reporters over the head with the “good news” for two semesters, I’m not sure how to condense the message to half an hour.

Any advice? What should these high-schoolers know about online journalism? What do I tell them about the future of news?

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Journalism Curriculum

Somehow, not being in school anymore just makes me more interested in the evolution of curriculum at journalism schools.

No, it’s not a subconscious desire to teach. I’ve not the temperament for that.

But I’ve been collecting information about what’s being taught, perhaps in the hopes that they’ll teach something I don’t know, thereby giving me an excuse to go back to school.

My, that sounds arrogant. But I only mean that I’ve been through the traditional journalism curriculum, took some online media courses and taught myself a hell of a lot in my spare time.

Bryan Murley updated his syllabus for the multimedia course he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.

Most of the syllabus is the same as it was during the last semester, however, I’m spending much more time on audio and video, with lots of repetition and building upon core concepts.

Also, I should note that we’re using Final Cut Express this semester instead of iMovie. I’m done with iMovie until it is more stable and edits audio easier.

Andrew Dunn reports changes to the curriculum at the University of North Carolina, which now requires a class called “Audio-Video Information Gathering.” The UNC curriculum includes specializations choices of Multimedia and Electronic Communication (whatever that is).

Through University of Florida fact-finding professor Cory Armstrong, I found out about a new course at UNC: Public Affairs Reporting For New Media.

As near as I can tell, students in the course pick a topic for the semester and do some in-depth research, including multi-media elements, to develop a package.

The professor, Ryan Thornburg, is blogging about the class.

This is one that I’m really interested in, since I did something similar as an independent study with Professor Armstrong.

Fred Stutzman, also at UNC, has been teaching Online Social Networks for several semesters now.

This course is a primer on the study of online social networks. We will explore the theory, methods and findings of a growing literature on the topic. We will also explore applications and use cases, particularly in the context of education and library/information services. While online social networks are but a subset of social software, this course should provide you a strong set of fundamentals for exploring the multiple facets of our pervasive online sociality.

Mindy McAdams is teaching a new multimedia reporting class at UF as well as updating her Flash class (Advanced Online Media Production).

Students taking Multimedia Reporting will learn to:

  • Gather digital audio and upload it to a computer
  • Edit digital audio and produce an MP3 file
  • Edit, crop and resize photos; optimize photos for online use
  • Create an audio slideshow using Soundslides
  • Shoot simple video suitable for online distribution
  • Edit video with a simple editing program
  • Prepare video for online distribution

Lastly, at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, changes are planned.

The new, proposed curriculum shift places a deeper, more thorough emphasis on awareness, understanding and application of online journalism skills and the training begins in the freshman year.

Stories CoJMC students write, photographs, advertising, marketing campaigns, video news reports and documentaries will be produced by hundreds of CoJMC students for the NewsNetNebraska Web site.

For those of us no longer in school and feeling left out, Dave Lee wrote about how journalists can continue their online education, well, online.

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Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative

Working on my New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve been looking into several Bronx and NYC blogs.

The Bronx News Network recently posted a deadline extension for applications to something called the Bronx Youth Journalism Initiative.

Whaaaat?!

The editors and reporters of the Norwood News and the Mount Hope Monitor are running a youth journalism program for Bronx high school students who are sophomores, juniors or seniors. – Bronx News Network

From the Norwood News site:

Students will learn the fundamentals of writing, reporting, and photojournalism through classroom instruction but, more importantly, through hands-on reporting in their own neighborhoods. We will take them on field trips – including the newsroom of a daily newspaper. They will learn about community activism and civic responsibility, how their neighborhoods work (or don’t), who has power, who doesn’t and why.

Best of all, student work will be published in a special youth supplement called Bronx Youth Heard, which will appear in the Norwood News, Mount Hope Monitor, and Highbridge Horizon, another community newspaper the west Bronx, giving Bronx youth a powerful voice in their own communities.

I was looking for ways to get involved in my community – and I may have found one. I’m planning to call the editors on Monday and see if I can be of use to them. Their site doesn’t mention teaching Web skills, so maybe that’s something I can contribute.

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Journalism Schools’ Curriculum

Mark Luckie at 10,000 Words ran the website descriptions from a couple of journalism schools through Wordle, creating a tag-cloud-esque depiction of words found on the sites.

The most popular word breakdown:

Medill Graduate School of Journalism: Reporting.

The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism: Reporting, Writing.

UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism: Reporting, Immigration, Stories, New

Asian College of Journalism: Media, Political, Issues.

UNC Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communications: Media, Research.

I ran the University of Florida’s College of Journalism site through Wordle, and came up with this:

University of Florida College of Journalism word cloud

University of Florida College of Journalism word cloud